I brewed up my last wheat beer for the season for my conical's maiden voyage. The conical was actually easier to sanitize than my buckets much to my surprise. I dumped 2 1/2 gallons of starsan in, made sure it made contact with entire interior using a paper towel, then let it out the spigot ball valve until it was done running, dumped the rest through the dump valve. I then wiped the lid down and was good to go.
There were no leaks. I can see now why all the people on various forums said get the tri clamps if you get a conical. They make putting the thing together so easy, leave no threads to try to clean, and give a sure seal.
I attached a blow off tube to the top barb and ran it through the grommet on an ale pail lid into a bucket half filled with star san. I don't plan to ever use an air lock as this looks much cooler and I will never need to be concerned about over flows.
(I wrote the following after bottling)
Yesterday I bottled from my conical. I bought the thing to eliminate lifting a bucket with 5 gallons of liquid up onto a stool. The conical delivered on that. I used my 20 oz paintball gun CO2 bottle to pressurize the conical. This was where I ran into my first hitch. I had used a pinch on clamp to secure the hose to my gas quick connect. It took some time to work that dang thing off. I am going to replace that with a regular hose clamp. Then I proceeded to push the beer from the conical into the bucket which was already sitting on the stool. CO2 pushes the beer out much slower than a auto siphon. When I tried giving it just a tad more pressure it growled at me. So that part took a while but it was worth it not to have to lift that bucket. Bottling went as usual from there.
Then came clean up. Cleaning the vessel itself was easier and faster than cleaning a bucket. For some odd reason there was some black stuff in the krauson ring left in the conical. The beer tasted fine. I have no idea what that was. I didn't take a picture of it. I took the conical and it's stand outside separately. Removed the valves and sprayed it down with the garden hose. When I was done, just for the heck of it, I sprinkled it with barkeepers friend and scrubbed it down with a blue scrubby. This whole process took less time than cleaning my bucket. And it was nice having an absolutely clean fermenter with no stains or hoppy or beery smell to it.
Now came the second hitch. The instructions say to take the ball valves apart after every use. I didn't have any wrenches to fit them so I had to make a run to harbor freight and pick up a couple of cheap crappy Chinese adjustable wrenches. I tossed all of my parts into a bucket of one step and off I went. I got back and sat down to the table and disassembled the ball valves. I am really glad I did. I found chunks of trub in each of them. I was unable to get the gaskets out of them. When I have some time I may sit down and take them apart again and see if I can pry the gaskets out with a small screw driver.
All in all cleaning was not the nightmare I had anticipated. The triclamps really make the job a snap. I can see why so many people on the various forums swear by them. Knowing what I know now I would not even consider buying a conical that uses threaded connections instead of these.
Now that I have done a test run here are my nits and picks
Made in China
I wasn't able to dump the trub out like I thought I would. Although I think this would work with a different yeast that doesn't compact as much. And I think it would work if I dumped it right after primary fermentation finishes instead of waiting until just before bottling.
It does take a bit longer to rack to my bucket. But it is worth it.
I don't have to lift anymore bottling buckets
The stainless steel is nice. I like being able to clean absolutely everything, including odors, out of it
Tri clamps make disassembly and reassembly a piece of cake
I do like having a thermometer that probes into the liquid as opposed to just measuring the surface
I love the 10 gallon capacity. The beer I just made had one of the most active fermentations I have ever seen. It would have been coming out the blow off tube in my bucket. But with all the head space this thing affords the stuff never reached the top of it.
This thing looks extremely cool in my pub.
Overall impression. When I was shopping I was only aware of Blichmann, then learned about Stout. I chose the Stout because of the price difference between to similar products. I never heard of Brewhamoth until after I had purchased this thing. A brewhometh is only $200 more, it holds 22 gallons, and you can pressurize it. Pressurizing makes it possible to ferment in very warm conditions without getting any off flavors from the yeast at all. That is how the big breweries do it. And the Brewhamoth comes with triclamp connections for only $10 more than the standard model. Beyond that, this is just a fermentation vessel with bells and whistles. It can be totally cleaned, but you can buy a totally clean bucket for $14. At that price it would take a long time to add up to the $500 I spent. If it is any kind of struggle at all for you to afford one of these I suggest you don't buy one. However I am very happy with mine and I am glad I bought it.